Business school admissions: what it takes to win a place
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Masters in management (MiM) courses are growing in number. The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT business school entrance exam, reported this year that the number of European MiM programmes accepting its exam scores rose from 27 to 152 between 2007 and 2016. In the US, the total nearly doubled from 102 to 195.
This does not necessarily mean it has become easier to secure a place at a chosen school, however, so what does it take to be accepted on to a course? The starting point is to explain why you need the MiM, says Stacy Blackman, a US admissions consultant who advises both MiM and MBA applicants. “Show an interest and focus on how you want to use the degree after graduating,” she says.
Applicants should also focus their energy on research into the different programmes, Blackman adds. “Read, read, and read some more,” she advises. “Look over the websites of all schools that interest you to learn about the curriculum, teaching methods, professional clubs, extracurricular offerings and student life. These criteria vary by programme.”
Potential job opportunities
Another important factor for applicants to consider is a course’s effectiveness at providing access to job opportunities after graduation. “Business schools have developed comprehensive career services,” Blackman says, but she adds that ultimately participants “should propel their own success”. “You should take time and effort to set clear career goals before applying for a business programme. This is especially true for masters in management programmes because they are newer on the business school scene,” she adds.
At ESMT Berlin, demand for the MiM has grown: applications for this autumn’s programme are up 75 per cent on 2015. Many applicants have a business studies background, but over the past four years candidates with degrees in humanities or arts subjects have increased from 4 per cent to 17 per cent of those accepted on the course.
This is a reflection of the growing interest in a MiM qualification as a good grounding for a career in business, according to Stephanie Kluth, head of admissions for degree programmes at ESMT. It also highlights that while the admissions team is keen to see that people have an aptitude for quantitative subjects such as maths and economics, an applicant’s ability to show drive and enthusiasm to do what is required on the course is more important.
“I need to make sure the student doesn’t cause us an academic risk,” Kluth says. “But our primary expectation is that the candidate has very high motivation and knows what the school is about.”
The most common mistake Kluth observes among applicants is the copying and pasting of the same essay on multiple course applications to different schools. “You don’t have to have the most impressive list of extracurricular activities,” she says. “I really like it if I read an authentic essay.”
Applications for the MiM course at Rotterdam School of Management were up 15 per cent year on year for the class starting this autumn. About a quarter of candidates had a bachelors degree in an engineering-related subject. The attraction for these students is the opportunity to add business to their technical skills, according to Arnoud Monster, RSM’s executive director for recruitment and admissions. “The MiM is a fantastic qualification because it gives you a general understanding of business,” he says.
Understand the course
One of the best ways to stand out in an application is to show an understanding of why you have picked this particular school and course. “There are lots of different types of MiM course, so doing your homework about the school is one of the most important criteria for being offered a place,” Monster says.
The best way to gain an understanding of a school is to talk to those already there, he adds. Rotterdam helps applicants in this by offering the opportunity to speak to current students who have agreed to be “ambassadors” for the school. “They can ask them any question,” Monster says. “We really don’t interfere.”
He advises anyone who is concerned that this might present a rose-tinted view of the school to instead search for former students on social media and connect with them online.
Lastly, getting the basics right is essential — if not always achieved. The most common mistake is someone failing to submit one of the required documents or test scores requested on the application form, says Monster. The most common reason for this is people rushing their application because they are submitting it close to the deadline.
“The best piece of advice is not to leave the decision to come to business school until the last minute,” he says.